It's been said that the content of the internet can be broken down into the following statistics: 50% porn, 10% cat-based memes, and 40% lists. While this may be a slight exaggeration, you get the idea.
There are literally hundreds of thousands of lists, top 10's, and slideshows online. The subjects of these 'listicles' (the slightly cringeworthy term for online lists) have no limits: 20 most amusingly shaped vegetables, 12 hairiest Senators, 50 reasons not to eat raw sewage.
One place where list-based articles have really taken off is on gaming websites. They're often the most popular section of these sites, and, thanks to the sheer number of video games that have been produced over the last 40 years, there are an almost endless number of gaming listicles that can be thought up.
The subject of this particular top 10 is why do video game websites actually use listicles so much? Hopefully the irony of it all won't be lost on anyone, and maybe you'll learn something - even if it's just more proof that you can make a top 10 out of anything.
Although it may be considered mildly unscrupulous, some lists are made purely to arouse curiosity - and they do. These are the ones that give people the "I've got to check this out" urge, or 'clickbait' for want of a better word.
Sites will often find lists such as 'You won't believe your grubby eyes when you see Harley Quinn's 10 hottest costumes' will do a lot better than a well-written page of text explaining why the author likes indie games. Sad, but true.
A large number of gamers have strong attachments to certain games which, although they may be brilliant, never got the publicity they deserved. Whenever a listicle appears on a gaming site that could/should have a person’s favorite hidden gem in it, they'll more often than not check it out and see how that game fared.
This kind of thing often results in said gamer hurling abuse at the author for not putting their beloved indie title at number one. But hey, another day in the life.
The main image of a listicle carries a lot of sway over how many people will read it. Even if a person is interested in an article's subject, that might not be enough to make them click on its link. But if they see a picture they like, especially if it's something that really grabs their attention, there's more chance of them checking it out.
Once their interest has been piqued and they're on the site, hopefully they'll stick around and read some of the other work available - and not just the stuff with Dead or Alive girls in it.
If a person is a fan of a specific gaming genre, such as real-time strategy games, then a list article can be a good way of helping them discover previously unheard of titles.
'Best of genre' lists are constantly updated, and every author has their own opinion. Some listicles can be game specific, such as '10 games all Starcraft fans must play'. These kinds of lists often get a large number of social media shares, making them big favorites with gaming sites.
Gaming sites know that some of their readers aren't always keen on reading 1000+ word articles; this is where listicles might come in handy. A great number of lists don't actually require people to read the text beneath each entry. A lot of times, only the images are necessary, and this is particularly true with picture-based listicles.
There's no better way for a reader to take in a massive article very quickly than to make it list-based. Although, it is worth pointing out that the text does sometimes add to the experience. *Cough*
It may come as a surprise to many people, but a large number of gamers get quite passionate about their hobby. So, for example, when someone makes a list that claims Lara Croft is sexier than Samus Aran, the site hosting the listicle can expect some angry fans to express their outrage.
This often starts a comments debate (i.e. fight) that will ultimately lead to more people getting involved. It's then hoped that viewers will share the list with their friends, usually with the added "check out the crazy assholes in the comments section."
Having a provocative title is also a good method of getting views... and death threats. Anything along the lines of 'Why (insert game here) is massively overrated' usually does the trick.
One of the ways a listicle can most resemble a standard article is when it's summarizing a game's features. This can be an excellent method of showing a title's best, or worst, qualities in a quick and easy to read format. They're also good at gathering all known (or rumored) information regarding upcoming games and presenting it in an appealing, update-able fashion.
The authors of these types of lists often entice readers even more by using terms such as "the most exciting..." and "reasons we can't wait for...". Some examples from GameSkinny include 10 Reasons why Star Citizen will blow you away and Fallout 4: Everything we know so far.
The first popular retail video game (game inside a system) was Pong, way back in 1975. In the forty-years since then, we've had a lot of games, especially when you consider the frequency at which they're released. This means there are a huge number of options to pick from when choosing entries for gaming listicles.
Remember: the more wide-ranging the subject matter, the easier, and better, a list will be: '10 greatest video games' will always be an improvement over '10 greatest types of sock'.
Because of the sheer amount of choice available when it comes to thinking up these lists, it's unlikely they'll ever stop being produced. With more new titles being released every day, and therefore more potential listicles, they can carry on being a feature on gaming websites indefinitely.
List articles are very popular - it's why there are so many sites solely dedicated to their production. Gaming sites know this, and they also know they are the articles that get the most social media shares and views. It's one of the main reasons they continue to come up with them; it's these views that keep the websites alive. That one blowout list about NSFW Skyrim mods might have gotten enough traffic for a site to justify things like smaller op-eds and interviews. There's a content ecosystem to keep in mind.
There's also the fact that gaming listicles often appeal to those who only have passing interest in the medium; maybe someone who plays Call of Duty on their brother's console every now and again, or enjoys freemium phone apps. They may not know who all these people are in the 'most obscure fighting characters in gaming history' list, but it doesn't stop them reading and enjoying it.
This is true for all lists, not just those that appear on gaming websites. Ultimately, list-based articles are both simple to read and allow our brains to take in information easier. The vast majority of people would prefer to read the exact same article in a listicle format over a standard one.
Gamers love to give their opinion on what's the best game, console, and Team Fortress 2 hat, and that will never change. As long as we have video games, websites like GameSkinny, and passionate players, we'll have listicles. Long may they reign.